This Week in History: The remarkable life of Cowichan Elder Ruby Peter

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Ruby Peter was an inspiring Cowichan Tribes Elder who led a remarkable life.

“My mom was a very inspirational woman,” says Peter’s daughter, Molly Peter. “She was very dedicated to our Coast Salish language. It was really important to her to revitalize our language, and that was her passion. She really worked hard to have our language written, and transcribed, and she also really worked hard and devoted her life to teaching our language to others.”

“She was a very gentle person,” adds daughter Adele Joe. “She was very kind, she was very helpful to everybody. Even when she was in the hospital, she was able to help the students get their Master’s degree.”

Ruby was 88 years old when she passed away earlier this year. She has left an incredible legacy of learning, which has been documented in the moving book about her life, What Was Said to Me: the Life of Sti’tum’atul’wut, a Cowichan Woman.

The book, published by the Royal BC Museum, was written by Peter, in collaboration with Helene Demers.

“It was about 25 years ago that Ruby and Tom Hukari from the UVic [University of Victoria] linguistics department and I applied for a grant to record her life history, and Ruby and I spent nine sessions, about an hour and a half, sometimes up to two hours each recording. She’s was an incredible storyteller” says Demers.

Ruby’s daughter, Molly, is understandably proud of her inspiring mother.

“She really encouraged people to get an education – to really learn about our culture, our teachings, the knowledge of what we hold and what we host, and she also really encouraged all of her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren, and her great-great-grandchildren. She taught us to always look after ourselves so we can look after others, and always to be humble.”

Veronica Cooper spoke with Demers and Ruby’s two daughters in this episode of This Week in History.

This Week in History is sponsored by the Royal BC Museum

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